The USAF’s Suffolk bases are essential in showing a ‘tangible commitment’ to America’s European allies, a US defence review has decided.
There were fears in March that the future of RAF Lakenheath, in particular, was under threat when the US Department of Defense began its European Infrastructure Consolidation review (EIC).
But the initial results of the review make it clear that the USAF’s European bases, including Lakenheath and Mildenhall, are considered essential to the US European Command’s (USEUCOM) ‘mission requirements’.
In a statement, the Department of Defense said: “USEUCOM’s forward presence is one of the United States’ most visible indicators of support to our European allies, providing assurance and demonstrating tangible commitment to our collective defense.
“US dedication to our Nato security responsibilities is beyond doubt; ongoing infrastructure adjustments simply ensure that we are best-positioned to fulfill those responsibilities given changing circumstances.”
The EIC decided only two facilities in the UK will be among those ‘handed back to the host nation’ which are a long redundant ammunition store at Mildenhall and 15 housing units at Feltwell.
Across Europe, only what they call ‘minor non-operational infrastructure’ are being shed including a golf course, a hotel and a skeet range.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said: “None of these adjustments affects existing force structure or military capabilities, and the efficiencies will further enable US European Command to resource high priority missions.”
When troubles started in Ukraine, F-15 fighters from Lakenheath quickly gave the USAF a presence in nearby eastern European countries.
But on Wednesday an RAF Mildenhall spokesman said: “These closures are the first under the larger EIC umbrella. It is unclear if the study will identify additional areas for consolidation and savings, and it is premature to discuss specifics until the process is complete.”
Colin Noble, district and county councillor for Lakenheath, said it was only to be expected that the US Government would review its commitments from time to time.
He added: “Not only are they part of our community, but local people work on the bases and they are an important part of our economy”